Flowing through dance and culture

River Dance Festival returns to New Hope

3 minute read
Three dancers tangled in movement on stage, with one dancer leaning back on backs of other dancers and looking up
Moe-tion dance theater will be part of this year’s River Dance Festival. (Photo by Stephanie Gamba.)

The second annual River Dance Festival returns for three days of dancing near the Delaware River in New Hope. Presented by Roxey Ballet, the festival features diverse talent from across the country. The River Dance Festival aims to provide dancers, choreographers, and creators with a platform to present their work and speak their truth. Mark and Melissa Roxey cofounded the Roxey Ballet, and today Mark directs the company while Melissa directs its school, the Mill Ballet School. The festival premiered last summer during the traditional downtime for dancers. “When I was a young dancer, we would have our season, and then we would have lots of time off,” Mark explained. Time off is “the number one curse of dancers because we need to be dancing all the time.”

Cross-river, cross-cultural

Equally important, the River Dance Festival emphasizes BIPOC artists in order to contribute to progressive social change, including equity in the arts. Participating artists receive space for rehearsals and performances, a high-quality video of the show, and feedback from the audience. The festival offers dancers “a place to come, make work ... and explore their own artistic voices,” Mark noted. The festival’s name was inspired by Roxey Ballet’s presence on both sides of the Delaware: the offices are in Frenchtown, New Jersey, while the company rehearses in New Hope, Pennsylvania. “We’re a cross-river company,” as Mark put it.

​This year’s lineup features Kalamazoo Contemporary Ballet, moe-tion dance theater, Art of Motion Dance Theater, the Arts Access Program at Matheny, Berks Ballet Theater Conservatory of Dance, Commuovere Dance, the House Dance Project, and Capricious Dance Company of Narnia. Viewers will see work from both new and mid-career choreographers, as well as a solo performed by a dancer from New York’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet. “It speaks to the need, the important need for us as dance companies, as a dance community, to be reaching out to others and lending a hand,” Mark said. The festival is “great for the dancers and artists, as well as the community” in greater New Hope.

Dancer and choreographer Giovanni Ravelo will present two works. One is a duet he described as “really dear to me.” The other piece is a new work created for the students of Mill Ballet and set to music by Cuban singer La Lupe. “It’s a fun piece” that incorporates Latin dance, Ravelo said. The program also includes a contemporary ballet piece by Seyong Kim, associate professor of dance at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Kim, who danced with Roxey Ballet from 2010 to 2015, noted his appreciation for New Hope’s natural beauty and supportive community. His dance is set to the Bach aria “Erbarme Dich, mein Gott,” which draws inspiration from the Gospel of Matthew. Kim noted that the dance can be interpreted through diverse and transcultural perspectives that transcend religion.

“This opportunity is really great for me,” said Kim, and he finds it “meaningful and important” that the festival provides opportunities to artists of all backgrounds. “I’m looking forward to meeting Mark Roxey and friends” at the River Dance Festival, he added, “and I’m excited to share this piece with the audience.” Meanwhile, Mark pointed out that the lineup includes something for everyone. The festival offers three days of dancing with three different programs and talkbacks after each performance. “It’s really, really important for the choreographers to have that feedback,” Mark said. Additionally, the festival’s virtual option “gives people an opportunity to jump on and watch the performance as if they were there” in person, regardless of which side of the river, country, or planet they inhabit.

What, When, Where

River Dance Festival. $25 for in-person and virtual viewing. August 18-20, 2023, online and at Mill Ballet, 46 N Sugan Road, New Hope. (609) 397-7616 or roxeyballet.org


Wheelchair-accessible and companion seating is available upon request. Email or phone in your request preferably two weeks prior to the event at [email protected] or (609) 397-7616.

Assistive listening devices, large print programs, discounted tickets, accessible restrooms, and more are available. See their website for more information.

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